7 developers express interest in Blazing Star

Published 10:25 am Friday, December 11, 2015

Officials hope even more will come forward

Seven developers have expressed interest in the Blazing Star Landing, said Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams on Thursday.

Adams said that commercial and residential developers have been interested in private development that would be spurred by the movement of Front Street North. Individual stores have also expressed interest.

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He said he was impressed by the amount of interest in the site, considering the city hasn’t advertised for it.

Chad Adams

Chad Adams

“Once we do start promoting it, we hope it’s more than that,” Adams said.

He gave a brief overview of the project to the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners, Albert Lea City Council and city and county officials Thursday night in a joint meeting between the government boards.

The city is requesting $3.5 million in state funding to move Front Street North to make way for lakefront development and preliminary preparation work north of the railroad, included in the first phase of the project.

Adams said Thursday night the first phase won’t begin until 2017 in a best-case scenario.

Other funding is expected to come from new taxes created and captured from private development and land sales. No local tax increases are proposed for the relocation of Front Street.

The city is requesting $11.5 million from the state for the second phase of the project, which includes the construction of an approximately 115,000-square foot community center plus additional work north of the railroad.

The two phases are expected to cost approximately $44.6 million.

Relocation of a portion of the Blazing Star Trail is planned as part of phase one, but the city is planning for the trail to remain as a connection from Frank Hall Park to Myre-Big Island Park.

The development includes construction of a new city hall, ice arena and a community center that would include space for senior services and programs, meeting and activity rooms, a four-lane walking and running track, a fitness room with free weights and cardio, studio spaces, an aquatics area, an indoor play park, game room, four-court gymnasium, racquetball courts and childcare, among other amenities.

The city would not spend any of the state’s bonding dollars or spend taxpayer dollars until private development until is secured to pay for first phase improvements and a substantial portion of the second phase.

The estimated tax increase on a $100,000 home is projected to be between $50 and $60 for 30 years.

The intent of the Blazing Star Landing master plan is to create a place that is an extension of downtown and an enhancement of the lakefront of Albert Lea Lake.

In other news, the boards discussed a possible four-way stop at the intersection of Hawthorne Street and Bridge Avenue.The intersection currently is a four-way stop during the Freeborn County Fair.

The boards came to an agreement on a need for funding that won’t come for years, said Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr.

Commissioner Dan Belshan advocated for flashing stop lights at the intersection and said they worked during the Freeborn County Fair and should work at other times of the year.

The boards also discussed possible turn lanes into the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.

Councilman Larry Anderson expressed support of adding a left-hand turn lane at the intersection of Bridge Avenue and Hawthorne Street to reduce congestion.

The discussion about possible changes to Bridge Avenue has been a point of controversy. Officials have looked at how many lanes to have on the road, as well as what traffic signals are needed.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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